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URGENT - Keeping Pastured Piglets In

 
Alison Thomas
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Please please please does anyone know how to keep piglets in their allotted pen?  Our five are now 4 months old and have escaped the electric fence AGAIN (this is a 3 times a day event) and got into the orchard.  My hubby has just had a major screaming fit at them and me saying that I keep getting all these blo*dy animals and they're costing us a fortune in both money and effort and I've just to get rid of them at whatever price, even give them away free.  I'm sad at that because it was our pork supply for the next 3 years and they'd do an added bonus of tilling and fertilising until The Day came for each of them.

They get fresh pasture every week (plus kitchen scraps and a barley feed twice a day) and get rotated around 12 paddocks so it's not as if they've got nothing to eat. Even when they were in traditional fenced paddocks they got underneath the wire stock fencing.  It's true, it's exhausting.

Their mother is a sweetie and never goes out of her allotted space and the two adult boars are good too. Is there a magical age when they stop doing this crazy stuff?

I'm extra worried because we think our sow is pregnant again (unplanned) to a wild boar and I'm thinking that hubby will order their destruction at birth so I've really got to find a solution PDQ.
 
                            
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I never heard of trying to keep pastured pigs. Either they are kept in a pen or they are feral. I know a nice penn with good sides works well. Pigs are diggers(children of the earth) Earth provides food and minerals, dirt and mud to keep cool. In the wild also earth provides a burrow to protect from the elements. Pigs wear dirty but are not filthy or foul unless the have no choice. A good pig pen with six foot sides, two foot underground and four foot above ground. Depending on the number of pigs will give you the size of the pen. I used to keep six or eight pigs in a pen twenty foot by twenty foot. I kept my pigs for meat and sold off at between two and three hundred pounds. Understand pigs will eat almost anything including you if you pass out in the pen. Pigs are smart and even in a pen if they want they will leave.
 
Alison Thomas
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stebi wrote:
I never heard of trying to keep pastured pigs.

It's definitely possible - we do with our pigs but this is the first time with piglets. Walter's place has been doing it for years www.sugarmountainfarm.com And also Vicki who comes onto permies.com occasionally.

stebi wrote:
Pigs are diggers(children of the earth) Earth provides food and minerals, dirt and mud to keep cool. In the wild also earth provides a burrow to protect from the elements. Pigs wear dirty but are not filthy or foul unless the have no choice.

I like that "children of the earth". And yes, I agree, if they smell then they don't have enough space.

A pen like you describe is not an option for us as we want them to tractor the land. Sigh. They're wee cheeky monkeys.
 
                            
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If you have been doing it for years I would like to know more. As for the piglets perhaps they just need a stouter pen until they are no longer so curious. After all their life is to dig smell and explore. A stout movable pen might work well. I have heard of a few people who have done this. Joe Salatin might have some good ideas on this.
 
Ivan Weiss
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@Stebi: You never heard of trying to keep pastured pigs? Seriously? I have been doing it on and off for more than 30 years, and I'm getting ready for another go with 16 weaners in a few weeks.

I don't know precisely what problems Alison had, but in my experience, swine of all ages respect hot wire. To each their own, I guess, but I don't practice confinement and do not pen my hogs. I have four fenced pastures and have just fenced a fifth, using pallets as per Paul's video starring my friend and neighbor Karen Biondo.

Karen doesn't hot wire her pigs at all. That's her choice; I'm not taking any chances. I'll be using the electrified 1 1/2" tape from Premier, with the insulators nailed to the cross-pallets -- it's nice and visible, and we'll see if they try to pile dirt on it to short it out.

I pasture my hogs because our winters here in W. Washington don't get cold enough to kill the soil-borne parasites, and running hogs in the cow pastures on a four- or five-year rotation will break that parasite cycle. I want them rooting up the whole area, one big paddock, the more the better. It means I have to reseed each pasture totally every four-five years, but so what? They need it.

My decidedly UN-expert advice to Alison is to troubleshoot your hot wire to see what might be causing the pigs to get through it. If they're going under, maybe you need to run a string of barbed under the hot wire. Maybe your hot wire is too high off the ground. I'd stick with it, hubby be damned.




 
Burra Maluca
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Many years ago a friend of mine used an electric 'net' style fence, I think designed for chickens, to make an outdoor run for her pigs.  One morning they found the entire litter of piglets in a row directly below the lowest wire, squealing in time with the electric pulse as they had all attempted to burrow underneath and had given up half-way but couldn't manage to wriggle back out.  It was kind of funny (I was a teenager way back then...) and as far as I know they learned their lesson after that and didn't mess with the fence again.

I also seem to remember her saying that sheep would test a fence once and respect it, goats would try it at regular intervals to check if it still worked, and pigs would test it every single time and take advantage of every single opportunity to escape.
 
Abe Connally
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We've had issues with the young ones going under the bottom wire at times. It was set at about 6-8 inches off the ground.  So, I added another wire at the bottom - a ground wire, about 2-3 inches from the hot wire.  Now, when they push the bottom wire up to go under, it shocks them really good, and they don't do it again.  Since I did that, we haven't had an escape in months.

Electric fence is a psychological barrier, you have to burn it in their brain.  Once they know it hurts and they can't get through, you are fine.  I can even leave our fence charger off all the time, and there are no escapes anymore.  The best practice is to train them in a pen, so they can't escape, and get them used to the wire.  I tie little flags to the wire as well, so it is easy to see and identify.

The real key is a very good ground (complete circuit).  Sometimes this doesn't happen well (dry soil, vegetation, etc).  If you add a ground wire very close to a hot wire, they will touch both at once and get a very strong shock (I've done it myself a few times, and believe me, you remember!).

 
                            
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In the part of the east coast I used to live in pens were common and pastuering pigs was just not done. I live in Ak. now and one has to think about bear and wolves. Pastured pigs in the warm months is still possible but during the winteer a nice warm pen is nice for pigs. As for yelling at pigs the only way they might notice is if the person were dressed as Obelix.
 
Alison Thomas
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Yes indeed, the trouble is that they are rooting and earth-moving onto the bottom wire then the whole system is grounded and useless. It happens so frequently that they are constantly 'checking' as Burra says to see if there's an opportunity for out. I'm at a loss to see how we can prevent this from happening.  This morning I walked the perimeter, cleared all earthworks,  checked the charge, let the pigs out from their fenced pen (protection from wild boars) into their nice green pasture bit... and two hours later they're out again digging up all the potatoes - grrrr.

Velacreations, is this 'ground wire' just a normal metal wire? I'm a bit green on the terminology. Charged or not charged? Our electric 'fence' is three strands of woven 0.5" tape. I'm guessing that that's the 'hot wire' ??
 
Cj Sloane
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Alison Freeth-Thomas wrote:
Please please please does anyone know how to keep piglets in their allotted pen? 


We had no problem with "hog panels." Ours are 4ftx16ft, smaller spacing at the bottom, very sturdy. Some people use less sturdy fencing but bury a foot of it in the ground. The hog panels are much more expensive then flimsy fencing but while the piglets are small you could probably get away with just 4.

If you can put it in the pasture maybe you could move it every week?

Here's a pic - the pigs are probably 6 weeks old:
Piggies day 1.jpg
[Thumbnail for Piggies day 1.jpg]
 
Cj Sloane
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Alison Freeth-Thomas wrote:
Our five are now 4 months old and have escaped the electric fence AGAIN (this is a 3 times a day event) and got into the orchard.

Sorry, I just re-read your post. I didn't realize they were 4 months old!
So, are they getting into the orchard to get the fallen fruit? If so, are they ruining the orchard because eating rotting fruit should be one of there jobs!

Worst case scenerio - have a pig roast! Or slaughter them now. 5 four month old pigs should give a fair amount of pork.

Last question - what breed are they?
 
Alison Thomas
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CJinVT, what gorgeous lil piggles. Tamworths? And what lovely green grass - ours isn't that lush.

No, the fallen fruit is going to make cider if the geese don't eat it all first. The piggles have discovered acorns there but they are also digging the new trees out    They are a cross between mummy, a Large Black x British Lop and their Dad who's a pure bred GOS.

We already have two going for the chop that are 16 months old and that's way enough for us til next autumn when these guys will be facing the first 'thinning' exercise.
 
Cj Sloane
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Yes, Tamworths.

The green grass was quite a surprise because the soil is terrible there. We had a logger clear some space & he moved off all the topsoil!

The area was fenced off a few weeks before we put the piggies in and the grass grew great. When it wasn't fenced off the sheep kept it very short. We just thought it wouldn't grow due to terrible soil.

Can you get those hog panel in France?

In Intro to Permaculture there's a drawing of orchard trees being protected by fencing so the pigs can't dig them out.
 
Shawn Bell
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How about rings in their snout to keep them from rutting?
 
Brice Moss
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are the piglets doing damage when they escape?

I ask cause my goat kids will crawl under the gates and run around the yard a bit untill they get to about 3 months but they run right back under the fence when everyone heads for the barn, and haven't done any harm yet so I stopped worrying about it
 
Allison Rooney
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We've found that electric poultry netting will keep small pigs in very well...Premier Fencing sells a poultry net that now has a double tine ground stake on the posts and it works so much better at keeping the netting from sagging, but also keeps the posts firmly in the ground.  We also took the trouble to secure the bottom run of fence line to the ground with steel ground staples (the kind you use to secure landscape fabric) as an extra precaution, and no escapes or failures (doing this of course with the charger turned OFF)!  We use a standard electric charger that is plugged into an outdoor extension cord.
 
                                  
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Totally agree with Velacreations, with a huge emphasis on re-training. Now that they've "forgotten" to stay in, you absolutely have to put them back into an enclosed pen, with electric fencing right up next (without touching, of course) to the pen walls. That way they have no choice but to jump back when they hit the fence. An animal doesn't "know" whether to jump back or jump through when shocked, so you have to take away the latter option.

Once they're retrained for a week or so, you can take them out of the enclosed pen. As long as my pigs are happy (enough food, not in heat, water to keep them cooled off), they won't even think about passing through the fence, whether it has a charge or not. As a matter of fact, sometimes it is difficult to get them to pass the imaginary line of where the fence USED TO BE, when we rotate them. On the other hand, one sow jumps the fence every time we forget to fill up her "bathtub."

And I find sows in heat and a day before littering to be probable escape days.

good luck,
 
Gord Welch
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I've been having the same problem... chasing pigs for the past 3 weeks.... the problem is not the pigs... it's the fruit. Until the apples stop dropping... they'll still keep getting out. Shock or no shock... they want the fruit... and who can blame them... the best solution would be to allow them in to the orchard, or place them very far away... or alternatively, fence off the orchard...

4 month olds are difficult... they're strong, smart, and think they know what's what... the big pigs don't go running thru the wire, right... they never do.... the little ones will... it's just the way it is, unfortunately... so long as there's treats on the other side...

And especially if you have young males... they'll feel a bit of pressure at that age to leave the herd from the dominant male. Good luck!
 
                        
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THis may be a silly comment but..some chargers won't give much of a jolt. And I suspect if yours is quitting every time it gets grounded, it may be one of those.  My fencer is rated for 30 miles and will soldier on when touching wood weeds or even the ground..a moose took out a section of it. Some of it was draped on the wooden top rail, some was curled on the ground and the gate handle was lying on the ground still sparking away in protest of having nowhere to go..

Also, some have two settings, and anything which is going through the low setting may think twice if put up to the stronger jolt. What will keep a horse in won't make a cow (or pig) think twice. I tend to wonder if your fencer doesn't have enough jolt to it to be a real deterrent.

However..once an animal has learned that it doesn't really hurt to go through it  then it usually is a battle and I agree with needing either to retrain and/or to put up a different sort of fence, or maybe as gordwelch said, instead of fencing them IN try to fence them OUT of whereever you don't want them. Pigs can be determined creatures and fruit is a definite incentive.. besides which I think they feel it's the principle of the thing!

Pastured pigs is the ONLY way to go imo but it helps if they are respectful of limits.
 
John Polk
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Indeed, at least here in Yankeeland, "Pig headed" translates to "stubborn" (not easily swayed).
 
                              
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throw a bucket of water over them, then run them into the fence. This will ensure a good contact with the wire and improve there respect for the boundry.
 
Leila Rich
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opsrto, that sounds like cruelty to me, not training!
I would've thought an animal would remember  that a fence was 'hot' much more effectively if it discovered the fact through its own exploration?
I've never kept pigs though...
 
                              
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with the thicknes of the hide and the mental thinknes most pigs show, at times a bit of a stronger stance is required, Call it tough love.

I had a sow that preferred the neighbors yard to her pasture. That cost me a lot of money and issues with the locals. That little trick was done once, she remembered and never got close to the fence again.
 
                        
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Leila Rich wrote:
opsrto, that sounds like cruelty to me, not training!
I would've thought an animal would remember  that a fence was 'hot' much more effectively if it discovered the fact through its own exploration?
I've never kept pigs though...


Once worked for an outfitter running trail rides in the Rockies and he had a horse in the string that had arthritis. When first loaded up, she would walk as though she was a bit sore for about 5 minutes and then she was fine for the rest of the day.

From time to time a guest would make a remark that it was cruel to make a horse like that work. He would then tell them  that he had bought her out of the kill pen at auction.  Sometimes it helps to consider the options...
 
Jack Shawburn
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Piglets learn quick and sometimes you need to be cruel to be kind.
Bucket of water is a good idea.
 
Walter Jeffries
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A very strong physical barrier can work but pigs are very strong. The key is training them to electric. Do this inside a strongly physically fenced area with electric within that. This takes a couple of weeks. After they've had training time then let them into a sub-pasture that is strongly fenced with the same fencing.

The electric should be distinctive. e.g., something they'll visually associate with the fence such as yellow fence posts and white wire or what ever you plan to work with on pasture. The charger should be well grounded and strong. I would suggest a minimum of 2.5 joules and preferably 6 joules or larger for most fencing needs. Remember that electric is psychological.

Put the low fence line high enough that they don't push dirt up onto it. Put the next line at low walking nose level. If you use a third line put it at high nose level. We fence our outside perimeter with four wires due to sheep and most of our interior paddock divisions with two or even one wire. I rarely fence for piglets, they stay with the herds. Our paddocks are half an acre to 10 acres in size. Larger paddocks make fencing easier but do keep rotational grazing going.

Walk your fence lines frequently to check for shorting, tree limbs down on the fence, etc. Fix problems proactively.

Don't forget to have lightning protection on your fence if you're in a lightning prone area like we are. Otherwise your fencer will be shot.

Have everything the animals need and want within the fence and all scary things outside the fence. That alone makes a huge difference in fence-ability.

On top of all this we have livestock herding and guarding dogs. They keep predators at bay, eating the occasional one who tempts fate, and they put pigs back in who occasionally get out. The dogs have a very strong sense of order and right vs wrong. They don't like things being out of place.

Cheers

-Walter
Sugar Mountain Farm
Pastured Pigs, Sheep & Kids
in the mountains of Vermont
Read about our on-farm butcher shop project:
http://SugarMtnFarm.com/butchershop
http://SugarMtnFarm.com/csa
 
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